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An Afghan youth looks at the taxi in which two Finnish aid workers were gunned down by men on a motorcycle, in Herat on 24 July.Two Finnish aid workers were killed in Herat, Afghanistan on Thursday morning. The women were working in Afghanistan as relief workers hired by the Finnish Lutheran Mission. IAM is the Lutheran Mission’s partner charity.

The  women had been working in Afghanistan for years and they knew the Herat area well, says Mika Tuovinen, Executive Director at Finnish Lutheran Mission. 

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the women had lived in Afghanistan since 1998 and were well acquainted with the culture and habits of the country.

“They did relief work for the most marginalised people of the poor, war-ridden country,” Tuovinen says. “They developed social and mental health work, and improved livelihood opportunities for women.”

Tuovinen describes the IAM charity as a “good and reliable cooperation partner.”

The charity had five workers in Heart, and it is debating whether to withdraw other workers from the country.

The two victims complied with safety instructions, states acting Executive Director of International Assistance Mission (IAM) Heini Mäkilä. The killed women were members of the same charity organisation.

“Yes, safety protocol was followed,” Mäkilä says. “The charity has operated in Afghanistan since 1966, and it has plenty of experience with safety. Safety protocol is constantly revised and updated daily, if necessary.”

According to Helsingin Sanomat’s sources, the women had departed to go to town without informing their guards. Mayor of Herat Fazlulla Wahidi reports to HS that the women were not accompanied by a bodyguard. Yet according to Wahidi, this is not unusual, as Herat is normally relatively safe, even for Westerners.

The Christian IAM charity has operated in Afghanistan since 1966. It currently has approximately 60 foreign volunteer workers in seven of Afghanistan’s localities.  Mäkilä states that workers of the organisation do not encounter violence notably often. “Not every year”.

IAM’s greatest tragedy took place in 2010, when ten of the charity’s workers were murdered in an ambush in Badakshan in Northeastern Afghanistan.

Mäkilä works in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan. To her knowledge, the city of Herat located in Western Afghanistan has been relatively calm lately.

“The city itself has been calm, but moving around has been restricted. There are insurgents in the province of Herat,” Mäkilä states.    

According to Mäkilä, the charity has not yet decided on how Thursday’s attack will effect the organisation’s working procedures.


“It is particularly important to gather information on the motives of the attack,” she states.

Aishi Zidan, Ville Similä, Laura Peräsalo, Matti Koskinen, Jukka Huusko – HS
Annika Rautakoura – HT
Image: Aref Karimi / Lehtikuva / AFP